In July of 2015 we moved from a 1,400 square foot house with 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and an oversize double garage to an 880 sq. ft. apartment. Four months later, we downsized again and moved to a 670 sq. ft. apartment. With the goals of shortening our retirement horizon and simplifying our lives, we jettisoned most of our belongings and took the plunge into an ongoing adventure in downsizing.
Our next downsize will happen when we retire early, on or before January 19, 2019 (one one nine one nine!). We will once again whittle our belongings down to whatever we can fit in a modest storage space in Sister Grumby’s basement (thanks Dee Ann!). Then we’ll hop on our touring bikes and ride around our beautiful US of A.
The Monthly Downsizer is a once-a-month post that documents our continuing process of intentional reduction. Here’s a link to last month’s post.
June was another month of record-low expenses, even though we bought more stuff. We also put in some time on our two-wheelers to practice for the upcoming switch to the bike touring lifestyle and were inspired by some smartypants friends.
What?! The Grumbys Bought More Stuff?!!
When/how is it OK for Serial Downsizers to buy more stuff?
When: we only buy more stuff when we have carefully thought through why we need it. Most-often this is a multi-day process that involves research, discussion, and expense review.
How: as frugally as possible, of course. Whenever possible we look for used items in good condition. If that’s not an option we search for closeout deals or sales. Full price purchases are always the last resort.
What did we buy? Sun Protection! (and other stuff)
- Solar sleeves for both of us: for the multiple hours that we will be spending out in the sun we are looking for ways to protect our skin without having to use sunscreen. We found a good deal on these Nike Golf sleeves. We put them to the test on a 3-day trip in 90+ degree heat and give them an enthusiastic 4 thumbs up.
Helmet brim for me. Initially I was concerned about looking like a clown with this big brim dwarfing my small face, but the relief of constant shade erased my vanity. I highly recommend Da Brim for anyone who spends time riding their bike in the sun at speeds of 35mph or less.
- Handlebar bag for Mr. Grumby’s bike: when you’re living on your bicycle, it’s important to have some items that are easily accessible – phone, camera, snacks, sunscreen, favorite bobble heads, etc. To accommodate all of his favorite things, Mr. Grumby bought a bag with a 13-gallon capacity. (OK, not really that big, but if he really wanted to he could probably fit 1 bobble head in there).
- Front pannier bags for my bike. Since the front pannier bags we bought on Craigs List last year failed the design test (no zippers/tough on-road access), we opted to sell those and buy this set that we found at a good online sale. They are bright red so will add to our high-visibility fashion statement. “Look motorists! Here we are!”
What else are we going to buy for our fancy bike tour?
Here are some things we’ve identified so far:
- Dynamo hub with USB port & light for Mr. Grumby’s bike: this allows pedal-powered illumination AND device re-charging. Beyond 2 mobile phones, we’re not sure yet what additional device(s) we’ll be taking on tour. Whether we have 2 devices or 7, being able to re-charge without electricity is a must. Mr. G. is going to start using this on his bike when it arrives and we’ll make the decision later on whether or not we’ll need double pedal power to meet our device re-charging needs.
- New rear rack for my bike. My current rack could probably support up to 40 pounds, but not much more. Since there will be areas where we’ll need to haul large volumes of water and food, I’ll need something more solid and sturdy.
- Handlebar-mounted rear view mirror for me. Right now I have a mirror that attaches to my sunglasses and the extra weight on my nose bugs me.
Money Matters (because it does, you know)
June 2017: Another Record Low!
The new record low of $1,800 total expense in June was again related to housing expense. We received a full $700 credit on the deposits we paid ($400 security / $300 pet) on our previous apartment. Even though deposit credits do not in any way represent an expense reduction, this credit sure made our numbers look good for the month!
Our non-housing expense came in at $1,058:
- Aforementioned gear accounted for 37% of that ($397)
- Groceries – $315 (29%)
- Gifts – $127 (12%)
- Travel – $120 (11%)
- Other stuff – $100 (9% – entertainment, medical, mobile phone, personal)
Expenses on Tour
Last month I said that we’d take a closer look at expenses on tour. I’m glad I included that in May’s post because including these details in our monthly updates will help with our planning process.
To begin, here’s a first look at what our annual expense might look like while we’re bike touring full-time:
We realize that that pre-medicare healthcare expense is an area of risk, with both premiums and actual expense. This is why we plan to have a comfortable 18% buffer between our planned expenses and a “safe” 3.5% withdrawal rate. By the time we pull the plug we will also have about $18,000 in our HSA accounts.
We plan to have a reserve of travel reward points that we can use for any unplanned travel for special events or family emergencies.
Time on the 2-Wheelers
Riding to Work
I usually take the light rail to work, but decided to ride my bike 1 or 2 times each week to get in some saddle time. The route is 11 miles each way and gets my heart pumping quickly with hills, a bit of traffic congestion, and a few tricky intersections. Overall, it’s a great ride that includes a beautiful view of the Willamette River while crossing the Steel and Broadway bridges. I love feeling the wind against my face, hearing the birds sing in the morning, and exchanging friendly waves with other bicycle commuters. And when I arrive at work, I feel awake, relaxed, and happy … an excellent way to start the day!
Mr. Grumby’s 3rd Annual “3 Ornery Hombres” Bike Camping
I will turn the keyboard over to Mr. Grumby for a summary of the trip that he took with his 2 ornery compadres:
Hi-ho! Mr. Grumby here! … June was the Three Ornery Hombres Super Manly Bike Adventure. The two other ornery hombres (I’ll call them “Jim” and “Gent” to protect their outlaw ornery-ness) and I faced death, Hell, decomposure and came out stronger and even more manly than before, if you can believe that. This year we elected to base camp and do “day rides” which, as I write this, doesn’t sound all that manly. But it was, and I believe that, I really do.
The first day began in Madras, Oregon, a high desert town of about 6,000. The route is called the Madras Mountain View Scenic Bikeway, which sounds a bit tame for 3 Ornery Hombres. The loop is 30 miles and didn’t include that many mountain views on account of it was overcast. But it was plenty death-defying, let me assure you tenderfeet out there riding in your motorized sofas. One guy pulled up next to me as I was climbing a hill and said there were 3 cougars out there and he is going to shoot them if he can. He said, “You should be carrying a .38”. I replied, “Ok! I’ll carry a 38, 39, whatever it takes!” We wondered if the cougars were felines or half-drunken country barflys looking for some fun. But either way, we escaped that threat and rode safely back to town. Once there, we drank a beer or two to quench our thirst and tame our ornery-ness.
Smith Rock Bivy Camp
We camped two nights at the Smith Rock State Park bivouac camp. Smith Rock is a destination for rock climbers across the world, and, despite the large number of people there, the campsite is set up in a way that there is plenty of room. The cooking area is centralized, and it was fascinating to talk all of the people about their climbs or whatever else they were doing.
Often when camping there is a pretty large asshole contingent- loud drunkenness, leaving trash around, singing Elvis until 3 a.m., etc. You know, just like my buddies and I used to camp way back in the olden days. But even though there were large numbers of relatively young whipper snappers, there was no crapola. They were all in bed by 11 because they were primarily there to climb enormous rock walls, and staying up until 3 am drinking and singing Elvis songs would not enhance that experience. Some probably were experimenting with the Devil’s Weed, also known as Satan’s Spinach and my favorite, Cheeb. But give me stoned campers over drunk ones any day.
We rode about 37 miles on the Sisters to Smith Rock Scenic Bikeway halfway to Sisters, and the next day we rode up the McKenzie Highway to McKenzie Pass. The highway is closed completely for the winter, and every spring, usually around late May, they begin the process of plowing the road. Once they punch one lane through, it’s open for bikes only until most of the snow melts, which is normally late June. So we had amazing scenery and no cars for much of the ride.
We camped again and headed back to civilization and our “jobs” the next morning, taunting danger once again.
Mid-week Bike Trip to Stub Stewart
Mrs. G. back now … This was our second trip out to Stub Stewart this summer. We took the light rail out to the end of the line after the Thursday morning commute and rode 15 miles out through scenic Hillsboro/Cornelius farmland to the Banks-Vernonia rails-to-trails trailhead. From there it’s about another 10 miles to Stub Stewart’s beautiful hike/bike-in campground.
This was great preparation for our upcoming 10-day trip in July. We pedaled 75 miles and climbed and climbed 3,342 feet over 3 days. During our July trip, we plan to ride 25-30 miles a day and the total climb will be about 10,000 feet.
Highlights of our June trip:
- Riding some of the easy mountain bike trails around the campground
- Staring up at the the towering trees and stars through mesh roof of the tent (too hot for a rain fly!)
- Tasty lunch at The Black Iron Grill in Vernonia
- First time riding with no hands since I was a teenager (what a blast!)
- Watching Mr. Grumby level the picnic table – strategically positioning branches under the table while using his phone’s level app to check his progress; he ended up 1 degree shy of perfectly level!
Getting By With a Little Help From our Friends
We are so fortunate that our 2 of long-time friends, Kathleen and Dave, have been a great resource over the years for anything technology-related. This blog would not exist were it not for the tutoring session with Kathleen, and I had a conversation with her and Dave a couple of weeks ago that initiated Mr. G’s and my thought process about our on-tour computing needs. We’re looking forward to going to K&D’s house in August to talk about using VPN for secure internet connection and Drop Box for file storage. They will also offer valuable advice on affordable devices that will allow us to continue blogging, tracking our expenses, and keeping up with family and friends.
Wisdom in the Blogosphere
We are also grateful for the collective wisdom of the wonderful and generous people in the personal finance, cycling, digital nomad, and self improvement blogospheres. Mr. G. and I have benefited greatly from the knowledge, experiences, and stories that they share. Here are a few of the many that have recently provided valuable food for thought:
- Make Smarter Decisions’ post about Project Fi. vs. Republic Wireless. We may not choose either of these for our ER mobile plan, but it got us thinking about affordable options with reliable national coverage. Mr. Grumby is going to look into Total Wireless.
- Curtis & Jenny Shaw’s entire blog about long-term bicycle touring
has been / will be helpful for looking at the nuts and bolts of daily touring life. Curtis has also provided some helpful advice by email – thank you Curtis!
- Mrs. ONL from Our Next Life has several posts about healthcare that are good reminders that we need to keep an eye on changes. Here’s a thought-provoking post that explores access and quality.
- Mr. G. and I both enjoyed reading about the Groovy Drawdown Strategy, which was link 4 on The Retirement Manifesto’s brilliant idea to start a Drawdown Chain Gang. This group of blog posts examines various retirement withdrawal strategies.
- Tamara and Chris from Nomads With a Van have creative solutions to the challenges of life on the road.
- David from Raptitude has one of the best posts I’ve seen about expense tracking as a gateway to personal breakthroughs.
- Zach from Four Pillar Freedom’s post about his passion for writing inspired us to think about why we write.
Expense Planning and Inspiration
What do you think about the Grumbys’ plan for Expenses on Tour? Are we missing anything important?
Who has recently inspired your thought processes or influenced your life goals?
Does this helmet brim make me look like a clown?